Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Education

Supervisor

Riveros-Barrera, Augusto

Abstract

According to Statistics Canada (2021), in Ontario, 27.75% of young people age 15 to 24 attended but did not complete high school in 2020. This figure has increased in the last few years. Indeed, Statistics Canada reported that in 2005, 21% of young Ontarians did not complete high school. As a response to this worrying trend, the Ontario Ministry of Education (OME) implemented the System Alternative Education system (AES): a system that uses out-of-school locations as substitute-learning settings for students who may not be able to participate in regular classroom learning. One component of the Alternative Education system (AES) is the Supervised Alternative Learning (SAL) programs (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2005; Ontario Ministry of Education, 2010). Despite the fact that SAL Programs have been in place for over 15 years in Ontario, there is no published research that can provide a clear understanding of the experiences of students in these programs. Furthermore, very little is known about how students who attended these programs reflect on their educational experiences. This research examines the experiences of former students who attended SAL programs. A key rationale for this study is the urgent need to fill the void in the academic literature, as well as to bring attention to the experiences of marginalized students in the education system. This study found that a meaningful academic curriculum, a positive classroom space, courses geared towards further academic opportunities and future employment capabilities, as well as teacher preparedness, are perceived as key influences in student high school graduation. It is recommended that school boards develop and provide suitable services to this population, so that they can graduate and be successful in their future employment/ educational endeavours.

Summary for Lay Audience

In Canada, high school dropout rates range between 5–14%, and can increase to as high as 50% or more in low-income communities (Statistics Canada, 2018). Statistics Canada (2018) reported that leaving school before graduation not only limits a young person's potential for the rest of their life, but it can also costs Canada billions in lost tax revenue, social assistance, and health care. My project examines the lived experiences of students who attended Supervised Alternative Learning (SAL) programs. This project aims at procuring a better understanding of how students’ lived experiences may relate to academic success. Despite the fact that SAL Programs have been in place for over 15 years in Ontario, there is no published research that can provide a clear understanding of how students experience SAL programs in this province. Furthermore, very little is known about how former students who attended these programs reflect on their educational experiences. This study aims to fill this gap in the literature by analyzing students’ lived experiences of SAL programs in Ontario.

Although SAL programs are seen as a positive conduit for students in their pursuit to graduation, to this date, this strategy has not been thoroughly researched in Canada. Research conducted in the USA, UK, and Australia has demonstrated how these programs can lead to school truancy, drop-out, and a decrease in graduation rates. These studies have found that alternative learning programs may increase exposure to marginalization, social inequity, and a negative stigma for marginalized students. Researchers have reported that these programs have the potential to create a pipeline system that may exacerbate oppression, and marginalization, promoting the idea that youth found in the Alternative Learning system belong in either the prison or the welfare system (Becker, 2010; Creswell, 2007; Gut & McLaughlin, 2012; Livock, 2011; Sellar, 2013; Smith & Thomson's, 2014; Thompson, 2011).

This study is justified in that there is an urgent need to fill the void in the academic literature, as well as to bring attention to the experiences of marginalized individuals within the educational system. There is no recent literature about the lived experiences of students who have attended SAL programs in Ontario. This study aims to fill this gap, so that researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers may have a more informed perspective on how these programs operate.

Available for download on Monday, August 01, 2022

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